Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ returns to winning ways in Las Virgenes
By J.J. Hysell
Garrett Gomez knew it wasn’t the real Beholder who finished second to Renee’s Titan in the Santa Ynez on Jan. 21.
He was right, as Beholder was found to have a throat ulcer after that race. She proved that losing performance was an anomaly with a dominating win in Saturday’s Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita.
Beholder, the 4-5 favorite trained by Richard Mandella, grabbed the lead early and drew off when asked. She covered the mile in 1:36.14 and won by 3 3/4-lengths over Fiftyshadesofhay.
“She had been doing everything so superbly in the mornings; sitting off horses, doing whatever was asked, etc, that it was mind-boggling that she didn’t kick for me when we turned for home,” Gomez said of her previous race. “We came to find out that there was a little something there. It was a whole different feeling today. She did everything beautiful, she traveled beautifully. When I asked her to quicken, she quickened. I couldn’t have asked her to do anything better for me.”
Fiftyshadesofhay, considered one of Bob Baffert’s top Kentucky Oaks prospects, stalked in second the entire race, unable to catch the speedy pacesetter.
“I tried to go to the lead, but the favorite just had so much speed,” said Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard Fiftyshadesofhay. “I just tried to keep my position because I knew she was going to take off in the stretch.
“She was too fast. As soon as we got into the stretch, (Beholder) took off really fast. She showed a good kick. My horse was still running, but it was not enough. It was a good second–no excuses.”
When asked if it was safe to say Beholder was back, Gomez exclaimed, “She’s back!”
Scarlet Strike and Mike Smith were a late-closing third.
Mandella said the Santa Anita Oaks on April 6 is the next target for Beholder.
“When you’ve got one this good, it’s just a relief to get the job done,” he said. “You hope you don’t mess it up. She’s very fast. To take her back and fight her wouldn’t make any sense.”
Beholder now leads the Kentucky Oaks point standings with 64. Fiftyshadesofhay has 30.